Text by Nick Tan
Pictures by Tee Thye Lim and Chew Lin May
The car park was empty, umbrella canopies with beautiful decoration and chairs underneath were seen, loud music was playing and plenty of wildlife exhibition when I came to work today. At as early as 8am, the usual silent morning was suddenly hit by waves of locals and foreigners visitors flooding in. The reason? The 50th Anniversary of Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre (SOURC) and the grand opening of Bornean Sun Bear Conservation centre (BSBCC).
Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre (SOURC) in the Malaysian Sabah District of North Borneo was founded 50 years ago when Barbara Harrison initiated the very first rehabilitation centre in the world for rescued orangutans. The site is 43 sq km of protected land at the edge of Kabili Sepilok Forest Reserve. Today around 60 to 80 orangutans are living free in the reserve. The new objectives of the centre has expanded to public education on conservation, research assistance and provide care for any other wildlife species. This centre is renowned for their work in rescuing and rehabilitating orangutans all aross the sate and has increased global awareness on the importance of protection of orangutans.
Carrying the same spirit and vision as Madam Barbara Harrison and SOURC, BSBCC was established at 2008 to help the Malayan sun bears. 2014 represented a milestone for BSBCC for it is when we are opened to public. In fact, the centre had a successful soft opening on January 16th 2014 and since then, we had a staggering number of visitors – around 34,895 (16,978 local and 17,917 foreigners). Over the past six years, we have worked to improve welfare of captive sun bears in Sabah. Today, with the grand opening of BSBCC, we look forward to educating and reaching out to many more people across the world to raise awareness about sun beras and their rainforest habitat. Research and rehabilitation which are critical in the conservation of sun bears are areas of focus now that the centre is open. BSBCC is also helping to boost the economy through tourism. According toTripadvisor.com, BSBCC is currently ranked number four among 20 attractions in Sandakan. Visitors to BSBCC are doing their bit to enhance wildlife conservation and forest protection.
The grand opening of BSBCC and 50th Anniversary of SOURC was attended by Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment – Y.B Datuk Sri Panglima Masidi HJ. Manjun and Director of Sabah Wildlife Department – Datuk Dr. Laurentius Ambu. The event went on for 2 days with the opening ceremony with the VIPs and various educational activities and exhibition held for the public.
“I hope that this new centre will be another model for a successful facility that can be proud of.” said Datuk Sri Masidi Manjun.
” When the centre was first set up, we had only a few staff working around the clock to care for the rescued orangutans. Now, not only do we have the assistance from several NGOs for the rehabilitation work, the centre is also a home for the sun bears rehabilitation program” Said Datuk Dr. Laurentius Ambu